Can students prepare for tests online?

An interesting post got my attention recently on the Dogme Yahoo group and after my reply the person commented that students are better doing exam prep online than with a teacher. This got me thinking.

Yes, the continual push into self-study and online learning means there are more good sites to use but if we just say “prepare online” and the exam isn’t online it seems a bit weird. This is where Cambridge come in, they are developing lots of exams to be taken online, similar to TOEFL and BULATS, coupled with online prep you have the perfect solution. Or is it?

Here are some comments from my students:

“If I have a question, there’s nobody to ask”

“I like learning with my friends”

“I’m not dedicated enough to study online”

“Most jobs will be online so studying and doing exams online prepares us for work”

This is kind of what I like about EFL in that it’s always changing but I still believe that a good teacher and some good materials can prepare a student far better than any software. Although both together is very good. At the moment, many EFL tests are still paper-based so it makes sense to study in the same way but  as online versions increase and probably writing and speaking online marking (it will eventually happen, won’t it?) too then we teachers won’t be needed.

While I’m on an exam note, I still don’t understand why CAE and CPE are not offered more. These are the creme de la creme of EFL tests and have serious prestige and so surely could never be done online, especially as the speaking parts involve 2/3 candidates.

And then there’s the whole online CELTA question too.

So, will we EFLers stick to teaching low levels? Oral skills? Uni prep? Pron? Will all CELTA tutors become online ones?

Who knows.


6 thoughts on “Can students prepare for tests online?

  1. Very important question these days. I agree most with this sentence: “both together is good”

    One big issue with elearning to date is that many students don’t use it unless motivated by a class, teacher etc. I do think SS can do a lot of their test prep autonomously (online of off), but if possible it certainly helps to have a class or a teacher to individualize and move things forward from a motivation point-of-view.

    • Important to note as well that “cost” can be a reason some students don’t enroll in classes which tend to be more expensive than a book or online prep. These days there are schools that offer both f2f and asynchronous learning, and the online portion often reduces the overall price.

  2. Pingback: Can students prepare for tests online? | #blogmust |

  3. Ahah.I did want to ask you about this as you are the master.

    I do love many online courses and programmes like TOEIC test sim.I’m still studying French online with another one.

    At my old place teachers just stuck students on the sites and buggered off. Me, I preferred having a lesson on say TOEIC part 5/6 and giving ideas and then letting them choose exercises to do online.This was everyone did what they needed and I could monitor and help. Having several online resources worked well.

    BL is definitely the way forward if the teacher does it right.I’ve seen teachers also just sit and check their mail for an hour because they haven’t been trained.

    On another note, we had some students who’d finished uni with no diploma and couldn’t get it until they got their TOEIC.For them TOEIC sim was the only way they could get it but really had to work hard.In an ideal world every student would get a password/account for these programmes when they enrol but many places can only afford licences for small labs which is a shame.

    I definitely agree that these online courses are farrrr better than many test-oriented books. Our students were forced to buy a huge TOEIC book that just had tests in but learned far more from TOEIC sim. This shows that maybe more schools should be looking to online stuff like Cambridge 360.

  4. Hi Phil,
    Very interesting queation indeed. I think the answer, like most things, is that a mix is best. My students complain about e-learning until they realize that the ones who actually do it regularly make much faster progress. All things in good measure, my friend.


  5. Yes, exactly. It takes dedication but maybe also a teacher to blend everything VERY well together. I’ve spent hours adding stuff to DOKEOS or MOODLE to compliment lessons but the integrated stuff works best rather than just add-ons.I’ve read about some unis offering online alternative courses to classroom classes. We tried that in Bordeaux sort of, just for students on internships and they managed to get the basics of what they’d missed but then some just said “well, I don’t need to come”.Needs a different mindset and very good training/explanation I think to get the most out of both.

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